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ENERGY

Electric cars fail to gain traction in Germany

Germany plans to have one million electric vehicles on its roads by 2020, but so far that goal seems remote as the nation's motorists have shown little love for the quietly humming vehicles.

Electric cars fail to gain traction in Germany
Photo: DPA

The number of electric vehicles registered in Germany is just some 7,000.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel put on a brave face in light of the statistics,

speaking this week at a government-organised international forum in Berlin, where she affirmed that she is a believer in electric mobility.

“Our plans are ambitious,” she conceded about the one-million goal pronounced by her government in 2009. “But we have a good chance of sticking to the timetable.”

Her government has spent almost €1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) to subsidise research and development in electric mobility and is promoting the models by scrapping car registration tax for the first 10 years.

However, unlike neighbouring France, Germany does not offer bonuses for the purchase of electric vehicles.

Electric cars produce no exhaust pipe emissions and can help clear the air in congested cities, while their carbon footprint ultimately depends on the type of energy used to charge their batteries.

Problems so far include the high cost of the batteries, usually lithium-ion types, and limited networks of charging stations, which make drivers fear being left on the side of the road with dead batteries.

After Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Merkel rang in an ambitious energy transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power towards renewables such as wind, solar and biofuels.

Speaking on Monday, she said the push for electric cars would dovetail with that plan, to ensure that the power that drives electric cars is produced from clean, alternative energy sources.

She said electric cars could be a “core sector of our industrial production,” with the auto sector making up one quarter of Germany’s exports. But so far Germans, used to putting their gas pedals to the floor on the famous autobahn highways, have been slow to accept electric cars.

In the first four months the year, only about 1,500 electric cars were newly registered, after a total of about 3,000 last year. There are also 65,000 registered hybrid vehicles with both electric and fuel engines.

Henning Kagermann, coordinator of the Platform for Electric Mobility that evaluates the electric car strategy, said that, under current conditions, 600,000 electric vehicles is a more realistic figure for 2020.

“Electromobility is treading water,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director of the automotive research centre of the University of Duisburg-Essen.

He said so far the market share of electric and hybrid cars is just 0.13 percent, calling it “less than a niche of a niche market.”

But proponents say the boom is just around the corner. German carmakers plan to launch about 15 electric car models by late 2014, with plans to move into mass production by 2017.

Over the next three to four years, German industry is set to invest about €12 billion to develop alternative fuel engines.

VW chief Martin Winterkorn — whose company this year launches its new electric Golf — said at the weekend that the government must help by improving infrastructure, such as a network of charging stations and incentives such as electric-car-only lanes.

In comments to the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, he said the one-million goal was realistic if prices fall with mass production, adding: “I am convinced

that that can happen.”

Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer also insisted “the government sees no reason to step back from the goal of one million electric cars by 2020. The first steps are usually the hardest, but sales will increase rapidly.”

Philippe Varin, chief executive of PSA Peugeot Citroen, said “it will be a gradual process over 10 years” to convince consumers to embrace first hybrids and plug-in hybrids and finally 100 percent electric vehicles.

AFP/gfb

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ENERGY

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

With Russia's invasion in Ukraine exacerbating high energy and petrol prices, Germany is set to introduce a second relief package to limit the impact on consumers.

German government announces fresh relief package for high energy costs

The additional package of measures was announced by Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) on Sunday.

Speaking to DPA, Habeck said the wave of price increases throughout the energy sector were becoming increasingly difficult for households to bear.

“Extremely high heating costs, extremely high electricity prices, and extremely high fuel prices are putting a strain on households, and the lower the income, the more so,” he said. “The German government will therefore launch another relief package.”

The costs of heating and electricity have hit record highs in the past few months due to post-pandemic supply issues. 

This dramatic rise in prices has already prompted the government to introduce a range of measures to ease the burden on households, including abolishing the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) levy earlier than planned, offering grants to low-income households and increasing the commuter allowance. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s relief package against rising prices means for you

But since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24th, the attack has been driving up energy prices further, Habeck explained.

He added that fears of supply shortages and speculation on the market were currently making the situation worse. 

How will the package work?

When defining the new relief measures, the Economics Ministry will use three criteria, Habeck revealed. 

Firstly, the measures must span all areas of the energy market, including heating costs, electricity and mobility. 

Heating is the area where households are under the most pressure. The ministry estimates that the gas bill for an average family in an unrenovated one-family house will rise by about €2,000 this year. 

Secondly, the package should include measures to help save energy, such as reducing car emissions or replacing gas heating systems.

Thirdly, market-based incentives should be used to ensure that people who use less energy also have lower costs. 

“The government will now put together the entire package quickly and constructively in a working process,” said Habeck.

Fuel subsidy

The three-point plan outlined by the Green Party politician are not the only relief proposals being considered by the government.

According to reports in German daily Bild, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FPD) is allegedly considering introducing a state fuel subsidy for car drivers.

The amount of the subsidy – which hasn’t yet been defined – would be deducted from a driver’s bill when paying at the petrol station. 

The operator of the petrol station would then have to submit the receipts to the tax authorities later in order to claim the money back. 

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen dramatically in Germany: diesel has gone up by around 66 cents per litre, while a litre of E10 has gone up by around 45 cents.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The everyday products getting more expensive in Germany

As well as support for consumers, the government is currently working on a credit assistance programme to assist German companies that have been hit hard by the EU sanctions against Russia.

As reported by Bild on Saturday, bridging aid is also being discussed for companies that can no longer manage the sharp rise in raw material prices.

In addition, an extension of the shorter working hours (Kurzarbeit) scheme beyond June 30th is allegedly being examined, as well as a further increase in the commuter allowance.

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